Dorman’s is a Midcoast institution. I’m from away, and even I know that. Malcolm has told me so many times about how there was nothing on that stretch of Route 1 through Thomaston but an ice cream stand and Dave’s Seafood, another long gone, old time favorite. I like to think what it was like there, before the car dealerships, the Walmart and the Hampton Inn, all the consumer ugliness that maligns that way into Rockland. Malcolm remembers going when he was a kid, after dinner with his best friend’s family. And now we bring our girls to get ice cream on summer days when afternoons stretch until bedtime. You can eat Dorman’s in place of dinner, as everyone knows, and it is a perfectly healthy and alternative to a meal. I took Violet and Mina for one last visit this year on the last day of summer to reflect on things like childhood, ice cream, and fleeting moments in time.
It somehow always feels like 1954. You look up at the sign that proudly announces “Dorman’s Dairy Dream” and for a little while you have hope for America and the nuclear family. There is a two window system that works very well. You wait in what seems like a long line at first, but it moves quickly. Order at one window, then step aside to wait for your cones and sundaes to be presented from the window to the right. While you wait, you are standing along a busy road with cars rushing past, but it still feels like you are standing out of time. When you are handed your cone, you can sit under a big oak tree or on a swing. It’s a little sparse, not the most picturesque spot in town. But the people watching is good. Dorman’s attracts all walks of life. And you can see the little smile on every single customer’s face as she waits for the happy magic of an ice cream. Ice cream heals many wounds. Cover it with jimmies, and you believe you just might be okay.
The girls are growing up. Neither of them are babies. They know what they want. Violet always makes me repeat her order until I have it memorized. They make a mess but generally don’t lose an entire cone to the gravel anymore. You can have a conversation with them about school and life and everything. They enjoy their cones so completely. Violet especially. She swings gently and contemplates everything and nothing all at once. She is totally in the now. I still get mint chocolate chip, because I love the way their chocolate chips are little craggy bits and the mint is unnaturally green. It’s not my own nostalgia but I feel it anyway. Maybe because the stories Malcolm tells are so evocative or maybe because I sense our family memories being created there. It’s a foretelling of the future captured on a sunny afternoon.
Dorman’s isn’t open on Sundays. They accept credit cards and cash. They will close for the season soon.